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Changing Mars

The maculae splotch dubbed Maui
For the full images click here (2019) and here (2020).

While Mars appears to be a dead planet, with no clear evidence of life so far discovered, the planet is hardly inactive. Things are changing there continuously, even if it happens at a slower pace than here on Earth.

To the right are two images, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, taken by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The first was on January 19, 2019, shortly after the end of the global dust storm that engulfed Mars during that Martian year. The second was taken on February 14, 2020, half a Martian year later. Both show one of a string of dark splotches located on the western flanks of the giant volcano Olympus Mons. Scientists call these splotches maculae, and because of their superficial resemblance to the islands of Hawaii, have given them names matching those islands. This particular patch is dubbed Maui. Below is a map showing all the splotches and their position relative to Olympus Mons, taken from a 2019 presentation [pdf].

Olympus Maculae, land of dark splotches

I wrote about these splotches in December 2019, describing them as magnets for dust devils. For reasons not yet clearly understood, these dark areas attract dust devils, which act to clear off any dust that might get blown there by large dust storms such as the one in 2018.

The two images above illustrate this quite clearly. Right after the global dust storm the outer edges of the splotch have become very indistinct, the overall splotch is lighter, and there several dust devil tracks visible. Apparently that dust storm had deposited a layer of dust across the entire face of the maculae, lightening it considerably.

A half Martian year later the splotch is dark, its edges clearly defined, and all dust devil tracks are gone.

To confirm my impressions I emailed geologist Kirby Runyon of the Applied Physics Lab in Maryland, who has been studying these splotches for years and had helped answer my questions previously. He added that the dark splotch had actually

…gone back largely to how it was in 2009. I note dust devil tracks are now gone—probably because the whole macula has been stripped of dust and not just in individual dust devil tracks.

In other words, these dark maculae attract so many dust devils that they were able to literally vacuum the entire splotch in less than half a Martian year, removing not only the scattered dust but any evidence of their own tracks.

The mystery here however is that scientists do not detect dust devils in any of the surrounding terrain. Only above these splotches do the devils congregate. Even more baffling, when they reach the splotch’s edge they apparently just fade away.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

One comment

  • Star Bird

    War of the Worlds remember that have been talking about Life on Mars for a long time and marvin and K-9 and Instant Martians(Just add Water)and all that other stuff

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